Jay Maisel: Light, Gesture & Color

IMG_2191

One of the major highlights of my explorations in photography was a very special week in May with Jay Maisel at The Bank in New York City. I’ve written about it before including this post about the importance of gesture. That week in May was one of the most unique learning experiences I’ve ever had – all thanks to Jay.

Jay shared everything with us – as he said, “It’s all I’ve got.” We suffered his harsh (but useful!) critiques, his stories and jokes, but also his love and care. Remarkable. Beautiful.

Jay’s just published a new book which discusses perhaps the most important primary theme of his teaching – it’s all about capturing light, gesture and color – the three ingredients that make images great images. While light and color are certainly important, my favorite is gesture. And, I think it’s Jay’s favorite too. He writes:

“You will, in time, see and show others not just the superficial, but the details, the meanings and the implications of all that you look at: the wetness, reflectivity, and power of water; the subtlety of clouds; the texture of the bark of the tree; the delightful surface of a finished piece of wood; the smoothness of a baby; the rough, ragged face of the aged; or the aerial perspective of diminishing clarity in a series of mountains.”

Yes, the details – and the gestures – “the little eccentric things that people did that gave them individuality and made them interesting. … When I see these things and I’m lucky enough to get them, I can’t stop grinning like an idiot.”

Oh Jay! You make me smile – and reflect on the beautiful impact you had on me. Love ya, man!

Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

It’s been a while since I’ve made a book recommendation – but this is a good one. Over the weekend, I finished reading Brad Stone‘s remarkable story about Jeff Bezos and Amazon.

While some of the Amazon reviewers dispute Stone’s story telling, he does a masterful job of walking through the history of Amazon and educating us on the ins and outs of Jeff Bezos’ approach to building a business. And what an amazing business he’s built.

This is one of those business biographies worth the time – there are great stories of the competitive spirit, the absolute cheapness of the culture, and the power of plowing everything you make in the way of profits back into growing and extending the business. “Your margin is my opportunity” is a quote attributed to Bezos and Stone brings that attitude to life in this great story.

If you like this kind of business history, you’ll really enjoy Stone’s storytelling and come away educated and enlightened. Brad Stone was interviewed today on KQED’s Forum program with Michael Krasny – it’s worth a listen!

Here’s an Amazon Associates link to the book – The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon – if you click on the link and end up buying the book, I’ll get a small referral commission at no additional cost to you. Just another of Bezos’ innovations.

Book Recommendation: How to Read a Photograph

Last Friday morning I had a business meeting in downtown San Francisco – just a couple of blocks away from SFMOMA – the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I have been wanting to catch the Garry Winogrand photography exhibition before the museum closes shortly for a three year makeover – so I headed for SFMOMA once the meeting finished.

How to Read a Photograph

The Winogrand exhibition is massive in its scope – and striking in so many ways to a novice like me. All black and white – beginning on the streets of New York City and ending up in the deserts of the southwest, and the political conventions and beaches of California – Winogrand’s images are so “in the moment”. That notion – the decisive moment – seems to define the essence of great street photography – and it’s strikingly shown in his work.

From an earlier time, there’s the differences in dress and – strikingly – the effect of cigarette smoke in so many of his images. He was amazingly prolific – must have appeared almost to be non-stop – and seemingly uncaring toward the processing – and, indeed, any editing – of his images. One wonders what he’d be like today with an iPhone camera in his hand – or Google Glass on his forehead – snapping away! The exhibition closes shortly – and is then on to shows in Washington, at the Met in New York City and then on to Paris.

As I was leaving, I visited the SFMOMA Museum Store and happened across this book – How to Read a Photograph: Lessons from Master Photographers by Ian Jeffrey. I thumbed through it – finding it to be a treasure of photographers’ work from the late 1800’s to perhaps a decade ago. It’s wonderfully illustrated with the great images from the photographers that Jeffrey decided to profile – and a delight to just pickup and browse – sort of like one of those annual almanacs but dedicated to great photographers and their work – including Winogrand.

When I got home, I checked on Amazon.com and found mostly good reviews – and a bargain price on the book (currently $15) compared to the $37.50 I paid for my copy at the Museum Store. If you’re interested in diving a bit deeper into the history of some of the great photographers of the last hundred years, I highly recommend this book. You’ll enjoy it.

By the way, SFMOMA published an extensive catalog to go with the Winogrand exhibition – here’s that title: Garry Winogrand (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art).

Note: I only include items here that I actually use and are worthy of my recommendation – there is no sponsorship involved. I do participate in a number of affiliate programs that compensate me if you find an item and decide to purchase it because of one of my links. You won’t pay any more – it’s just the affiliate’s way of saying thank you for a referral. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Recommendation: Raúl Cañibano: PHotoBolsillo

Last January, I headed to Havana, Cuba with my photo buddy Doug Kaye for a wonderful week of photography organized by Kip Brundage of Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.

Raúl CañibanoOne of the best things about this week was that we had Cuban photographers out with us as we walked the neighborhoods in Havana. They really helped us see – and opened our eyes to the beautiful people and places in Havana.

One of the Cuban photographers we really benefited from working with was Raúl Cañibano. It was such a treat to be out in the neighborhoods with him – and watch him as he captured images along with us. Raúl works very quickly – with minimal gear. He’s got a great gift for seeing an image in the moment – and capturing it quickly.

While we were out working with him in Havana, he had a small portfolio book of his photography that he shared with us. It’s a beautiful small size – with some amazing black and white photography both in Havana and out in the countryside in Cuba. We wanted to buy a copy of this book – but he couldn’t sell it to us.

Raúl’s book recently become available for ordering on Amazon.com – and it’s a real delight. I keep it in my home office alongside my desk – for inspiration! Raúl’s eye and capture is a real treat for the eye! If you enjoy great black and white photography of real people, you’ll really enjoy Raúl’s small book!

What I’m Reading: Short Nights of The Shadow Catcher

Kutenai Duck Hunter - Adaptation of Edward Curtis - 2011

Author Timothy Egan has a new book out about the great American photographer Edward Curtis titled “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis“.

Egan is a wonderful writer – having written for the New York Times for many years – and, more recently, also author of the book The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl which was provided some of the background for Ken Burns’ recent file The Dust Bowl. He picks great but somewhat obscure subjects for his writing – and that’s a big part of why his work is so interesting.

I remember first hearing about Edward Curtis from photographer Trey Ratcliff who described Curtis as his “favorite photographer“.

After Trey turned me on to Curtis, I began exploring his images in the Library of Congress just over a year ago – and wrote about it here. I picked two of his images to experiment with – “Kutenai Duck Hunter” (see above) and a lovely Eskimo woman named “Ola”. I described how I did my adjustments for both images here.

I’ve just begun reading Egan’s book on Edward Curtis. So far, it’s another great read. Deborah Solomon recently reviewed the book for the New York Times.

Printed in Italy

Printed in Italy? Not what I might have expected. Maybe printed in Hong Kong, or China, or …? The wonderful new book about Ansel Adams by Andrea Stillman is – yep – printed in Italy. Published by long time Adams’ publisher Little, Brown – I wonder why it was “printed in Italy”? But, that’s just a curiosity.

The book itself is a delight. “Looking at Ansel Adams: The Photographs and the Man” shares Stillman’s insights and perspectives as Adams’ former assistant. She’s selected twenty of his photographs for exploration in the book. “Ten of the twenty are among what I call Ansel’s ‘greatest hits'”, she writes. But she also includes ten others – less familiar Adams’ images. Her scope is just right.

Two years ago this month, my late friend Chris Gulker and I drove south from Menlo Park to take in a unique exhibition of Ansel Adams prints at the Monterey Museum of Art. It was a very special trip for the two of us – Chris was a very talented black and white photographer and he was an avid student of Adams’ work. I walked Chris through the exhibition in his wheel chair – taking it slow and listening to his commentary on each photograph along the way. He blogged about it.

Along the way, we met up with the owner of this exhibition’s “Museum Set” – Adams’ daughter Anne Adams Helms. She was spending a few hours at the museum and enjoyed talking about her Dad. Chris asked about the difference in the way Adams printed his images over the course of his lifetime – and Anne talked about how the prints evolved to be darker late in his life.

One of Chris’ favorite Adams’ images is perhaps his best known – Moonrise. In the book, Stillman tells the story of this image – illustrating the evolution of Adams’ prints as he darkened the image over the years. The print of Moonrise at the exhibition was one of the darker ones – the Museum Sets having been printed late in his life. Chris just loved it – perhaps his most favorite image.

I learned a lot from this trip to Monterey with Chris as we shared our feelings about the special black and white imagery of Ansel Adams. Stillman’s personal remembrances in her new book bring back those memories to me again. A very special work – highly recommended!